Man’s Death after Struggle with Officers Reclassified as Homicide

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STOCKTON -- A man's death that had been ruled "accidental" has recently been changed to a homicide and now an attorney representing a San Joaquin County family claims the move was no mistake.

Suffocation, compression and blunt force trauma are all detailed in a "cause sheet" and listed as the factors that led to San Joaquin County Pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu to determine that Abelino Cordova-Cuevas’ death was not accidental.

"Manner of death: homicide. Yet, this is the document that wasn’t produced," said attorney Greg Bentley, who is representing Cordova-Cuevas' family.

Footage shows the last moments of the 28-year-old's life back in 2016. Although it’s difficult to make out, there is some sort of apparent struggle in the video.

At the time, the police department said Cordova-Cuevas ran away from then fought with officers. He died at a hospital.

His family has filed an excessive use of force lawsuit.

"When we received the coroner’s report they listed it as an accident," Bentley said.

The family’s attorney claims the sheriff’s office has not been transparent.

"To have the sheriff’s department withhold or not produce documents that are key going straight to the manner of death, it’s shocking and should not happen," Bentley said.

The sheriff’s department denies that claim. A spokesman tells FOX40 although the pathologist can suggest the manner of death that determination is always ruled by the coroner.

He adds the manner of death had been changed to homicide in light of new information last month.

As for Dr. Omalu, in a video deposition given to FOX40 by his office, the world-renowned pathologist claimed in February that the sheriff has continued to lie to the public.

"I do not see how we could still, as a public, trust the validity of that office as long as Sheriff Steve Moore is in charge of that office," Omalu said.

Bentley said they have asked the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s office to investigate. He believes this may not be the only officer-involved death that was changed from accidental to homicide.

"My hunch, it’s not isolated," he said,

The spokesman with the sheriff’s office says the sheriff is out of town but will speak with FOX40 on Tuesday. FOX40 also reached out to the DA's office and is waiting for a response.

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